The sponsors involved bring an ugly underside to bike racing, just as
they do to NASCAR. The winning team has done well with United Health
Care (UHC) as a sponsor. Many in MD using them as an insurance provider
under MD's Medicaid program have done nowhere near as well. UHC got
their foot in the door, then started cutting benefits in less than a
year, abolishing things like emergency dental coverage. Shortly
therafter the whole Medicaid program started tossing people off the
rolls for things like not having enough income to generate tax returns,
thus having no proof of income so maybe this is bigger than UHC.
The race itself began in 1999 simply as the Clarendon Cup and had to
be off the streets early in the morning as it closes down streets used
to access businesses. Due to large crowds attracted by this event, the
race is now welcome to run in the middle of the day. Each year the pros
get the starting gun just after noon and race for 100 laps, taking about
2 hours to complete them.
In later years the race picked up a rather curious sponsor: the Air
Force Association, a lobbyist for the US Air Force. Boing and
Lockheed-Martin are also sponsors. To those who think of bicycles as
fossil fuel free transportation this sets up a comparison of opposites.
The early history of warplanes does bring one comparison however: for
non-racing/untrained cyclists, the longest it is posssible to maintain
emergency power output short of sprinting power can be as little as 5
minutes, rather like the over 100% rating "war emergency power" throttle
setting of a WWII-era piston fighter plane. Sprint power is far more,
and can only be held for 100 years for a non-racing rider and about 300
yards for a racer. Sprint power can exceed 1,500 watts (just under 2HP)
and permits flat terrain speeds of about 45MPH. Racers in a pack may do
about 26-30MPH, limited by the speed the riders "pulling" at the front
can hold either for longer periods or at faster speeds, repeatedly
pulling for short intervals before being replaced on point in the wind.
Hard pulls in the wind and all-out climbs can require in excess of 400
watts to be maintained.
The miitary itself often sponsors sporting events, like the Marine
Corps Marathon or the SEAL-sponsored Superfrog triathlon but the only
time flying and bicycling relate to oneanother is in the exotic field of
human-powered flight. Flying a plane powered only by one's legs has
been perhap's aviation's most difficult of all achievements, and only a
bicycle racer can generate enough power to take off and climb.